I have my first house guest this weekend and I almost feel like all the training I did was for fun. The foster boy in my house has been ridiculously wonderful.
He's a 15 year old who has had a rough past, that shines through when he talks about his family, and it really came through when I offered to buy him socks and he responded as if I had bought him a puppy. He has no socks. NO SOCKS. He's heading off to a group home for the next 90 days, and whoever packed him up last week did not provide any socks.
He is polite, has great manners, is kind-hearted...and he's in foster care and lives a very different life than most children you know. He talks about his six cats, one who they had to give away but who he still considers his own. He discusses mean teachers at school. He told me about his grandparents farm in the midwest. He's somewhat your average teenager. Complete with multiple piercings and holes in his baggy jeans.
He is younger than his years of life, but what would you expect when he's been in and out of school the past couple years? He lived in a group home late last year for a bit. Let me remind you again that his primary caretaker sent him into foster care with NO SOCKS. I suspect that same person didn't hold high value on his education either....and he is in a lower grade than his age. I'm not pointing fingers, but someone out there did not provide enough love, attention and effort into helping this young boy become a young man.
The thing about foster parenting - at some points on this weekend I felt that I'm just babysitting. And to be clear - foster parents DO get paid a stipend. But the difference is the way you respond. For instance, we were going to eat popcorn and watch a movie last night in the sunroom. The bowl of popcorn I gave him was full to the top, like little kernels were balancing and holding on for dear life. With normal kids, you just hand them the bowl and say, be careful, it's full. With therapeutic kids, you have to prepare them for what could go wrong and how it will be handled if it does.
So when I gave this boy the bowl last night, I said to him- the bowl is very full so walk nice and slow. But if some of the popcorn falls out, it's going to be no big deal, okay? We'll just keep walking to the sunroom and set the bowl down and then come back and pick up the pieces that fell and throw them away. No big deal, okay?
That's how it is for everything.
"We're going to go get a movie at the Redbox, but if they don't have a movie we like, or we find one we like and it's sold out, it's no big deal because we will just try again tomorrow and save movie night for tomorrow, okay?"
One of the other things I have learned through training was that too many choices is overwhelming. I could actually see anxiety in his face when I asked him what he would like for dinner, and even when I started listing some choices, it was too much. When I saw this happening, I said to him - I will list out all of our choices (the first night we got take-out), and then we can pick the right one for us, okay?
Then I listed off the 10 places we have nearby and said to him, do you want to pick your top two choices and I'll pick my top two choices and we'll see if we like the same, okay? (most of my questions to him ended with okay-that's not from training, that's me hoping he doesn't have an anxiety attack).
Absolutely everything all weekend had to be carefully talked out...just in case something goes wrong and now you've put them in a position where they might feel anxiety or stress about what will happen.
Somehow, my weekend guest said something about making chocolates. I told him - oh, I have the supplies and know how to do that! He was VERY excited as I showed him all the candy molds I have. We took a trip to Michaels and picked out 3 colors of chocolates and then we spent almost four hours doing this:
|"If a glass breaks for some reason, this is what we will do, okay?" |
|If you paint the wrong part of the mold, it's okay - you can make a new chocolate after this one is done, okay?|
|If you drip some candy on the mold or your finger or the counter, it's okay. We'll just wipe it up, okay?|
|If the sticks pop out, it's okay because then they'll just be regular chocolates , not lollipops, and we can make more lollipops after this tray, okay?|
Throughout the entire process, his face looked like those suckers. Completely happy. He is with me until tomorrow morning and I hope today goes as smoothly, okay?